Sword Art Online was undoubtedly one of the most popular anime of 2012. Based upon a series of light novels by Reki Kawahara, SAO’s near-future characters, gorgeous fantasy setting, and life-or-death stakes drew an enthusiastic fan following. Yen Press has released Volume 3 of the Sword Art Online: Mother’s Rosary manga adaption, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of other Sword Art Online manga, click here.)
Back Cover Blurb
After Yuuki and the rest of the Sleeping Knights shared a victory over the Floor Boss with Asuna and left their names on the Monument of Swordsmen, Yuuki mysteriously disappears. When Asuna attempts to message her, she finds that she’s offline. Desperate to see her once more, she turns to Kirito, who happens to know exactly where she is and gives her an address. But she may come to regret indulging her curiosity…
While the setting switches regularly between the virtual and real world in the final volume of Mother’s Rosary, the challenges confronting our characters are all real life ones. As it turns out, the Sleeping Knights’ motivation for wanting their names inscribed on the Monument of Swordsmen is rooted in the common fate they suffer in the real world. Namely, they are all terminally ill. Three members of their guild have died already. Of those remaining, the one with the least time left is Yuuki.
There’s nothing like an incurable disease to create heartbreak, and the narrative does an effective job at conveying Asuna’s shock and devastation when she tracks Yuuki down in the real world. As if Yuuki’s current situation wasn’t bad enough, the story wrenches the heartstrings further with the pitiful circumstances of Yuuki’s family and Yuuki’s attempt to protect Asuna from grief.
Interwoven into and flowing out of Yuuki’s personal tragedy is the concept of VR technology as a medical device. Until now, the purpose of dives has been entertainment, but when Yuuki’s physician explains the Medicuboid’s current and potential uses, it opens a whole new facet of VR. And when Kirito’s pet project enables Yuuki to “come to school,” it’s an intriguing paradigm shift. Rather than serving as an escape from the real world, Kirito’s interactive probe allows Yuuki a viable way to experience the real world.
With Yuuki living on borrowed time, it, of course, leads to Yuuki and Asuna talking about life and purpose. These conversations bring about the ultimate resolution to the conflict between Asuna and her mother. Given the heartless depiction of Asuna’s mom in the prior volumes, her suddenly having a heart-to-heart moment with Asuna is a bit much to swallow. But while her acceptance of Asuna’s decision is too convenient to be true, Asuna’s discussions with Siune and Yuuki about suffering and meaning feel genuine.
For those familiar with the anime, this volume contains pretty much the same content as the corresponding episodes. However, the pacing differs, most notably with the depiction of Yuuki’s last three months. Whereas the anime glosses over these events in a quick montage, the manga takes more time with them, devoting a short chapter to this time period.
Extras include embedded Background Guide notes, the title page in color, afterword manga, and special comment from Reki Kawahara.
The Mother’s Rosary arc reaches its conclusion. Between the revelation of Yuuki’s illness and her final moments, this volume is a real tearjerker. While the portrayal of Yuuki and Asuna’s relationship is strong throughout, the ultimate conclusion to Asuna’s conflict with her mother is less believable. Character arcs aside, this series wraps up with an interesting angle on how the same technology used for Kayaba’s “Death Game” offers hope for those facing death.
First published at the Fandom Post.